“Remember that airstrip I was telling you about?” Steve asked.
“Yeah, the abandoned one?”
“I don’t think it’s all that desperate, but help me look. The visibility is too bad and I’m afraid we’re going to have to set her down. I’d rather take my chances with an enemy I can see, than a mountain I can’t,” said Steve.
“You’re the boss,” John said, nervously searching for anything resembling a runway.
“Maybe the rain will cover our landing.” Steve put in a call to Tiom. But he realized they were too low to be picked up. He’d given up trying to reach them when the radio suddenly came to life.
“N7724V, this is Tarampura, over,” Marta Springer said.
“We have a problem. Can you relay to Tiom and tell Jason that we have to set down because of the weather. Our present location is over the abandoned airfield at Wampe. We’re going to try hold out until the rain lets up, over.”
“Steve, be careful ...I can’t handle another tragedy, over.”
“Don’t worry, Tarampua. I’ve got that new pilot with me, and we’ll be very careful. You might say a prayer for us anyway; it’s awful messy up here, over,” Steve said.
“Please be careful and promise to let me know when you get home safely, over.”
“Will do, out.” That was enough chatting. Steve had a plane to fly.
“Tiom, this is Tarampura, do you read me?” C’mon, Jason, pick up! Pick up! Images of an overgrown runway, hostile tribes, and deteriorating weather conditions horrified Marta. Her chest tightened involuntarily, making her call difficult.
“Last calling station. This is Tiom, over.” It was Rachel.
“This is Tarampura, I have some important news and I have to get through to Jason, over,” said Marta.
The heavy rainfall severely weakened the signal, frustrating Marta. She caught a few words between surges of static.
“Is that you, Marta? What’s the matter? Over,” Rachel asked.
“Steve is being forced to land because of the weather, over” Marta said, trying to stay in control. She knew it would be too much for Rachel.
“What is their current location? Over,” asked Rachel.
“Listen, everything is going to be okay.” Rachel’s trying to keep the transmission short. She’s having trouble hearing too. “They are going to land in Wampe.”
“Was that the same woman whose husband was killed?” John asked over the pounding rain.
“One and the same, a very brave and dependable woman.”
“Well, let’s hope God answers her prayers.” John rolled his eyes in defeat while considering Marta’s track record.
Eventually, John spotted the field from the passenger side window. They would have to set up the landing with Steve viewing the field from his side window. The rain was pounding the windshield too strongly, and seeing anything through it was about as effective as looking through frosted glass.
Steve performed a shallow left-hand traffic pattern as he slowly descended and flew the length of the strip. Seeing no obstacles, he circled and approached from the same direction.
He then bled off speed, let out ten degrees of flaps, and turned left before letting out another ten degrees. He forced the nose over to keep up the present air speed and observed the field. Pulling the throttle back, he dumped full flaps just before flaring out. The RPMs were low enough to prevent anyone from hearing the engine. An eerie whistle of air rushing past the wings accompanied them through the remainder of the flight.
“Okay, you’ve got it, steady...” John encouraged while wiping off condensation from the window.
“Great landing,” John said. He leaned back and sighed.
“After I shut her down, we should push her into the undergrowth and try to camouflage her. Our only hope is that nobody saw us, and that Marta got our message out,” Steve said.
“What are the odds of that?” asked John.
“I’m not a gambling person. I put my trust in Marta getting the word out, and God taking care of the rest. In the meantime, we need to hide.”
The rain continued to pound down around them. The poor visibility that forced them down was now their hope of obscurity.
“We really need to go deeper into the growth and away from the plane, just in case somebody unfriendly saw us,” said Steve.
“I agree. The farther we get from the plane the better.” John looked to the south, noticing blue sky. “It looks as if it may clear.”
Steve could only smile. It was very doubtful the rain would let up soon. Fog and clouds spun around the mountains like cotton candy.
Grabbing a few ponchos, water, and snacks from the compartment, Steve and John wove their way into the forest. The canopy was thick enough to stop much of the rain, and forest sounds reminded them they were not alone. The sounds also told them there was life out there more capable of survival.
They stopped far enough away to see the plane, yet remain concealed. Steve started to move vines out of the way, but John grabbed his arm.
“Leave everything as is. You’ll be surprised at how natives would notice anything out of place.”
Both men were drenched, having put their ponchos on too late. They stood for a long time in silence. Wind whistled softly through the undergrowth and water plummeted in large drops from overhead. Somewhere to the west they could hear birds singing, and to the north small animals hopped around in the growth.
“It’s always a good idea to listen and get comfortable with the sounds of the environment. That way, if we hear anything strange we can recognize it immediately,” John said.
“Smart idea, no doubt from experience. I can’t help feeling that we may have company before this is over,” Steve predicted.
They removed the camouflage ponchos and made a lean-to. Green and brown cover concealed their whereabouts, giving them a sense of confidence and courage. Speaking in whispers, they watched as the dismal evening turned into dark night. Each noted how the night was darker than what they were used to in America. There was no glow of electric lights, and in their shelter, they could barely see each other.
Sounds of the night told the story of business as usual. Nocturnal scavengers, hunters, and prey kept the darkness alive, unaware of their visitors’ fear and discouragement. The rain had let up, but they were still drenched, and with the night, cold.
Jeffrey W. Bennett, ISP is the owner of Red Bike Publishing. Jeff is an accomplished writer of non-fiction books, novels and periodicals. He also owns Red bike Publishing. Published books include: "Get Rich in a Niche-Insider's Guide to Self Publishing in a Specialized Industry" and "Commitment-A Novel". Jeff is an expert in security and has written many security books including: "Insider's Guide to Security Clearances" and "DoD Security Clearances and Contracts Guidebook". See Red Bike Publishing for print copies of: Army Leadership The Ranger Handbook The Army Physical Readiness Manual Drill and Ceremonies The ITAR The NISPOM